The tire industry is facing revolutionary changes

March 19,2024

After a century of development, the tire industry has entered a bottleneck period that is difficult to break through from solid tires to radial tires, and there has been no major innovation. Many people in the industry believe that replacing radial tires with airless tires may be the future market trend.

In recent years, many tire companies have participated in and deployed airless tires. Some companies have begun road testing, and Michelin has even commercialized airless tires.

Bridgestone's pneumatic-free tires accelerate market launch

Recently, Bridgestone announced that it will conduct road testing of its Air Free brand airless tires on public roads near Kodaira-shi, Tokyo in March 2024, and plans to commercialize the next generation of airless tires.

The airless tires will be mounted on test vehicles and their performance analyzed in a variety of public road environments to replicate actual usage conditions.

It is understood that as early as last year, Japan's Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd.'s ultra-small electric vehicles were equipped with Bridgestone's "Air Free Concept" airless tires and were tested on the road.

Just as its name implies, the Air Free Concept does not require inflation, but is supported by specially shaped spokes used in the sidewalls, preventing punctures and eliminating the need for tire maintenance such as tire pressure management.

To make the tire more sustainable, the Air Free Concept's tread can be retreaded and the resin component that supports the spokes can be recycled.

Bridgestone said its future goal is to expand value through co-creation with various partners and is committed to combining airless, puncture-resistant features with autonomous driving to achieve a higher level of safety.

Goodyear tests high-speed performance of airless tires

As we all know, due to material and structural limitations, airless tires will make a lot of noise when driving at high speeds, and the ride comfort will be greatly reduced.

In 2022, Goodyear used Tesla Model 3 to test its airless tires at the Luxembourg proving ground. It has been tested for 120,000 kilometers at a maximum speed of 160 km/h, and also includes some tests in cold and hot environments.

The speed of 160km/h in this test is far beyond the limit of family cars. In the end, the airless tires performed much better than expected.

According to Goodyear, airless tires require less maintenance than regular pneumatic tires and can better handle heavy-duty scenarios.

Goodyear said the company's goal is to get the U.S. Department of Transportation to approve airless tires, but that could take several years, and airless tires may first appear on non-personal vehicles.

Michelin has commercialized airless tires

As a technology leader in the tire industry, Michelin has certainly not fallen behind in the research and development and application of airless tires, and has even achieved small-scale commercialization results.

In January 2023, Michelin cooperated with the international logistics company DHL to pilot the use of UPTIS anti-puncture tires on Singapore roads for the first time.

In June 2023, Michelin announced a cooperation with France Post. By the end of 2024, nearly 40 French postal trucks will use UPTIS puncture-resistant tires and be put into operation in the Hauts-de-France region in northern France. The cooperation lasts for two years.

It is reported that Michelin UPTIS tires are suitable for passenger cars and light trucks. This product provides support for vehicles with a revolutionary innovative structure, and its "plug and play" design makes the driving experience more convenient. On the one hand, users do not have to worry about the impact of bad road conditions on tires, on the other hand, it can reduce the number of tires scrapped due to punctures.

Currently, Michelin UPTIS tires are the only pneumatic tires in the world that are driven on open roads in real environments on three continents, with a total driving mileage of nearly 3 million kilometers.

In fact, the industry has been researching and developing airless tires for more than ten years. In addition to the above three companies, Hankook, Kumho, Continental and leading domestic tire companies have all joined the research and development ranks.

At present, airless tires still have some shortcomings that are difficult to overcome, but with the breakthroughs made by various companies in the field of materials and structures, I believe that in the future, airless tires will be comparable to or even replace pneumatic tires, and will become a reality!

DLFTECH is a professional equipment marketing & service company built by a senior R&D and marketing team in the tire & conveyor belt equipment industry. Benefiting from the rapid follow up of the international rubber industry's process re-engineering and the demand for industrial intelligence, DLFTECH, the best of the best, has rapidly developed into a new star in the international rubber machinery industry. 

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